The Business Case for Employer Sponsored Headshots

Ask any Vice President of Sales in a major corporation “Do first impressions matter?” when meeting customers, and they will undoubtedly respond “of course.”

She will tell you that earning credibility with customers from the very first engagement is absolutely critical to getting their business.

Dress well.

Arrive on time.

Come prepared.

And yet, many employees have astoundingly unprofessional headshots that they use to represent themselves on company websites, LinkedIn, and company pitch decks.

So the question is, if employees are unwilling to pay out-of-pocket for headshots, should employers foot the bill?

The core business case for employer sponsored headshots centers around how employees’ headshot photos affect customers’ perception of our employee’s competence.

In the study completed earlier this year, we took three ordinary people and gave them a new professional headshot. The goal was to compare the impact of a new professional headshot on the subjects’ perceived 1) Competence 2) Like-Ability and 3) Influence.

Read the Full Report Here: Do Business Headshots Really Matter?

The viewers were directed to base their rating only on the subject’s business headshot and job title. (Ie the information typically available on LinkedIn, “Our Team” slides, and email profiles.) 

The results showed as much as a 115.5% swing in the viewer’s perception of the subject’s competence. On average, a new professional headshot meant a 75.93% improvement in perceived Competence scores.

 

SampleCompetenceLike-AbilityInfluence
Subject 1: Before5.58.06.1
Subject 1: After8.49.48.2
Difference52.7%17.5%34.4%
Subject 2: Before5.77.75.3
Subject 2: After9.17.59.1
Difference59.6%(2.6%)71.7%
Subject 3: Before4.58.45.0
Subject 3: After9.79.69.0
Difference115.5%14.2%80%
Average Impact75.93%9.7%62.03%
 

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Curiously, professional photos were not necessarily linked to statistically-significant increase in “Like-ability”, which is probably why most managers don’t perceive employer sponsored headshots to be a priority.

In the lens of our ordinary lives, ie Facebook Instagram etc, we primarily judge ourselves and others on Like-Ability. However, as most executives would agree, in customer engagements, we are primarily evaluated on Competence.

Different departments should expect different elements of value to come out of employer-sponsored business headshots. 

In no specific order:

 

Sales / Sales Development / Business Development:

Improvements in perceived Competence and Influence should positively affect conversion rates at the critical moment that your prospects and customers first encounter your employees. 

A 10% to 20% improvement in conversion rates of LinkedIn messages, cold calls, and emails should carry through the sales funnel towards the organization’s top-line revenue.

One study found that smiling in photos increased conversion rates of ads by 10.7%. (Source)    

 

Consulting / Advisory:

In advisory or consulting roles, customer satisfaction is largely impacted by the perceived quality of the advice being given. Because the quality of advice can be, understandably, difficult to judge in the moment, perceived credibility and social proof are critical for establishing the organization as “giving good advice.”

The need for credibility is made more acute when the associates or consultants are particularly young and/or inexperienced – as is the case at most financial service and advisory companies.

Many of these organizations hire directly from universities, with Associates who have relatively little formal business training. A small investment in business headshots should yield an outsized impact on the customer’s perception of the quality of services rendered.

As these Associates are typically recent college graduates, they’re also most likely to have a particularly bad headshot.

 

Customer Service / Customer Success:

Similar to consulting and advisory roles, Customer Services and Customer Success are largely judged on both responsiveness and competence. Employer-sponsored business headshots can impact revenue in two scenarios:

The “Our Team” slides used by Sales teams to pitch new clients. Sales reps who can present a clean, professional, and modern customer success team are more likely to win.

The On-boarding Experience, once the client has been earned, customer outcomes may be significantly affected by the customer’s willingness to listen to advice from the Customer Success team. As such, their perceived Competence is critical in guiding clients towards mutually beneficial outcomes which result in renewals and up-sells.

 

Human Resources:

The primary impact Human Resources is on Talent Acquisition. Potential employees will oftentimes research employers on Social Media and the web before deciding on which offer to accept. 

As it’s impossible for them to meet all employees before joining, their first impressions during this search will impact the conversion rate from offer given to offer accepted.

 

Marketing:

Particularly in B2B organizations, in aggregate, more potential customers view their employees’ profiles on social-media than regularly visit the home page of the company’s website. (Source)

As such, a +50% improvement in the perceived Competence and Influence of employees should have an outsized impact on the employer’s credibility in the market.

 

Management:

Great headshots improve company prestige and credibility – useful for Public Relations announcements and for executive talent acquisition.

 

Healthcare:

Many Doctors and Specialists are listed in a directory on the company website. Customers will oftentimes look at these pages before engaging with their healthcare provider.  

 

Summary:

In short, if you operate any type of business where the perceived competence and credibility of employees will impact their ability to sell, service customers, or provide value – employer-sponsored business headshots are a quick win for impacting outcomes.

This case is made more acute in industries where the dollar value of each customer easily justifies relatively small one-time investments(~$100) in how employees are perceived by customers and prospects.

 

Affected industries are:

Real Estate

Technology (Particularly SaaS)

Financial Services

Insurance 

Consulting

Healthcare

Any Inside Sales Role

Any White-Collar Customer Service Roles (Particularly B2B)



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